Utah Broadband Project Releases Statewide Broadband Plan

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Plan focuses on leveraging, enhancing and strengthening state’s broadband infrastructure

Wednesday, October 8, the Utah Broadband Project released the Utah Broadband Plan, which details strategies and key initiatives to help increase broadband deployment, adoption and connectivity throughout the State of Utah.

“In upcoming years, broadband access will become increasingly more important,” said Kelleigh Cole, manager of the Utah Broadband Project. “This plan outlines strategic goals and initiatives to help Utah continue to be a nationwide leader in broadband deployment and adoption, and most importantly drive economic development. ”

The plan highlights nine strategies to strengthen Utah’s economy through broadband development. It focuses on using broadband technologies to support economic development, education, transportation, public safety and other key sectors by teaching best practices to local governments and better connecting rural Utah to the global economy.

Specifically, these initiatives include developing the nation’s first commercial broadband map, working with partners to connect Utah’s remaining schools and libraries to broadband networks, encouraging broadband deployment best practices, teaching urban and rural communities businesses strategies to leverage broadband deployment and continuing strategic partnerships, particularly the Utah Broadband Advisory Council.

“Utah is already a leader in economic growth because of its commitment to broadband,” said Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “As the economy continues to shift online, broadband must continue to be a priority to maintain our economic growth and preserve our recognition as one of the best states for business and careers.”

The Utah Broadband Plan is the culmination of a five-year process which included the development of seven regional broadband teams, analysis on broadband adoption trends and soliciting the feedback of stakeholders across Utah. The Utah Broadband Project will be working with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Utah Broadband Advisory Council and other key stakeholders to determine the appropriate implementation process for the plan.

A full version of the plan can be found at the Utah Broadband Project’s website at broadband.utah.gov.

About the Utah Broadband Project

Web: broadband.utah.gov

The Utah Broadband Project is a joint effort between the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the Department of Technology Services’ Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) to develop a statewide map of available broadband services and a plan to increase broadband adoption and deployment in Utah. The Project maintains Utah’s interactive broadband availability map, and works with broadband providers to gather and verify data twice each year. The Utah Broadband Project has won several awards, including a 2011 GovMark Council Award and the 2011 January Achievement Award from the Utah Product Management Council.

About the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development

Web: business.utah.gov

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development charter is based on Governor Gary Herbert’s commitment to economic development statewide. The mandate for this office is to provide rich business resources for the creation, growth and recruitment of companies to Utah and to increase tourism and film production in the state. GOED accomplishes this mission through the administration of programs that are based around targeted industries or “economic clusters” that demonstrate the best potential for development. GOED utilizes state resources and private sector contracts to fulfill its mission. For more information please contact: Michael Sullivan, 801-538-8811 or mgsullivan@utah.gov.


Be Part of the Mountain Accord Initiative

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

We need your help in shaping the future of the Central Wasatch Mountains with the Mountain Accord initiative!

Mountain Accord had over 130 people attend the public meeting in Park City Monday, October 13. However, we need to up our efforts to get Salt Lake Valley residents engaged.

Mountain Accord is a multi-phase initiative that seeks to make critical decisions regarding the future of the central Wasatch Mountains. It will holistically evaluate and address issues and goals centered on four topic areas: environment, recreation, transportation, and economy.

Mountain Accord is a collaboration between public and private interests, including state and local governments, federal agencies, and business and grassroots organizations. Public involvement is an important component of this effort, and input received from the public will be used to inform and guide the process.

Few places in the world have a natural asset as valuable as the Central Wasatch Mountains are to the communities surrounding them. The mountains provide us with water, easy access to superb recreational opportunities, landscape-scale habitat protection and they serve as the place-maker for our region.

Visit mountainaccord.com today to be part of this great effort.

Also, take a look at these recent news releases on Mountain Accord:




Women and the Economy

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Ann Marie Thompson, program director at the Women’s Business Center, spoke during a Women in the Economy Commission meeting at the State Capitol on Monday, September 29, 2014. The article “Commision to highlight women in Utah economy” as previsously published by the Deseret News http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865612042/Commission-to-highlight-women-in-Utah-economy.html?s_cid=Email-1, says the following:

A newly formed female-only panel is taking aim at issues facing women in Utah’s economic landscape.

The Women in the Economy Commission conducted its second meeting Monday to discuss potential goals for the panel and how it might impact the state’s future economic success.

The 11-member commission was created during the 2014 Legislature by House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake. Seeling and House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, serve as co-chairwomen.

Seelig said the commission’s purpose is to increase public and government understanding of the current and future impacts and needs of the state’s women in the economy.

The commission will also work to determine how those needs may be most effectively and efficiently met, along with identifying and recommending implementation of specific policies, procedures and programs to respond to the rights, needs and impacts of women in the economy.

The panel can also facilitate coordination of the functions of public and private entities concerned with women in the economy.

“We create our institutions, including companies and governments, and then they help create us,” Seelig explained. “Our products are outcomes of who we are as human beings. And part of that contains our hopes, our dreams and our prejudices.”

She noted that since economic systems are “not neutral,” they should be examined to determine how “everybody and participate and contribute.”

Until then, she said, “we’re not going to be able to compete (nationally) or globally.”

Seelig said current economic systems do not take advantage of the full potential and capability of all of the available population, namely women.

“We have an entire human infrastructure and skill set, and we’re not utilizing about half of it,” she said.

While numerous media sources have praised Utah as one of the best economies in the nation, Seelig said that characterization might not be completely accurate.

“It may be one of the best for certain people,” she explained. “If you look at issues related to poverty and wage earnings, we still have a lot to learn.”

For Utah’s entire economy to flourish, the state needs to ”benefit from all the skill sets of all the human infrastructure that we have,” Seelig said. “And right now, we’re really not.”

Among the other issues of interest of the panel are helping women make advances in the state’s burgeoning business economy, explained Ann Marie Thompson, program director of the Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center.

“It is definitely one of our goals to be able to advance women in their own spheres, and one of them is as business owners,” Thompson said.

Education will be a key to helping women make greater gains and creating opportunities for growth and prosperity moving forward, she said.

“(As a commission), we are really trying to figure out what the problems are, how we’re measuring them, and what kind of partners we might need to better understand the needs of our women,” Thompson explained.

Learning best practices and solutions to the pervasive problems that exist are also important objectives of the panel, she added.

Thompson said addressing the issues of access to capital for women entrepreneurs and the wage gap for women in the workplace are also key concerns.

“Women are not aware that their (male) contemporaries are paying themselves a little bit more,” she said.

Women in the Economy Commission members:

House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake, co-chairwoman

House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, co-chairwoman

Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork

Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake

Carrie Mayne, Utah Department of Workforce Services

Ann Marie Thompson, Salt Lake Chamber

Trina Eyring, Zions Bank

Jennifer Robinson, University of Utah’s Center for Public Policy

Anne Burkholder, YWCA

Judy Barnett, AFL-CIO

Heather Barnum, HDR Engineering

Transportation For America – Local Successes

Thursday, October 9th, 2014


Utah’s commitment to disciplined planning and investment was featured as a “can-do” region this month by Transportation For America, an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step up to invest in smart, homegrown, locally-driven transportation solutions — because these are the investments that hold the key to our future economic prosperity.

While Utah’s success stories in economic development, transportation funding and quality of life are making their rounds around the nation – we still have significant work to be done, especially in transportation. The article highlight’s Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan as a national best practice and a comprehensive approach that provides for positive outcomes beyond transportation. A quality transportation system offers personal benefits to every Utahn, including more time with families, a cleaner environment and better health and Utah’s transportation system is the backbone of our economy. However, Utah’s current funding mechanisms won’t produce enough to cover all of Utah’s needed transportation projects.

The article “Local Successes” in Transportation for America highlights this point. One ongoing challenge for the Utah, specifically the Wasatch Front in particular is geography. How will a growing population maintain a good quality of life in a relatively thin sliver of land?

Utah is the sixth most urban state in the country, with 80 percent of the population residing along the Wasatch Front, a metropolitan region in the north-central part of the state that includes Salt Lake City, Provo, and Ogden. Bordered to the east by the Wasatch Mountain Range and to the west by the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake, the region provides limited space for its two million residents.

To compound the issues associated with limited space, the Wasatch Front’s population is expected to increase 60 percent by the year 2040, swelling to 3.5 million people.

Residents, planners, business leaders and their elected officials are asking the question: How to accommodate that growth while maintaining the region’s reputation as an economic powerhouse with world-class outdoor recreational opportunities?

Answers to that question began in 1987 with the founding of the Coalition for Utah’s Future. From that coalition grew Envision Utah, a nonprofit organization focused on growth issues around the state. In 1997, Envision Utah launched a two-year research effort focused on the growth along the Wasatch Front. That process engaged approximately 20,000 participants and resulted in the Quality Growth Strategy, a vision for the Wasatch Front that aimed to accommodate growth while conserving more land and water, limiting emissions associated with the region’s air quality challenges and providing more transportation and land use choices to meet market demand.

Along with almost unprecedented citizen participation in the region’s long-range planning efforts through Envision Utah, the region’s business community has also played a leadership role in advocating for additional transportation investment in local and state transportation needs.

“The number one issue ten years ago became the infrastructure,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake City Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We realized right up front from a business community [perspective], that if we let the infrastructure slip in our communities, we would absolutely commit economic suicide,” Beattie added. “It takes so much longer to build yourself out of a problem once you’re in, so we had to address it. The business community stepped up and said we want commuter rail, we want light rail, we want roads.”

David Golden, a banking executive with Wells Fargo and co-chair for Salt Lake Chamber’s transportation initiative the Utah Transportation Coalition, agrees.

“One thing I think we’ve proven is that an investment in transportation pays dividends for our economy and I think the citizens and leadership of our state generally understand that,” he said.

“From a business community perspective, we understand how important this investment is and how beneficial it is. We are a growing state with numerous demands, but I think overall, transportation is a proven winner in this state and one that people are on board with getting behind.”

Golden points to an economic analysis that found a $1.94 gain in gross domestic product for every $1 invested in the Unified Transportation Plan. “That’s a winner,” he said.

Through a lot of consensus-building and the cooperation of the public and private sectors on the Wasatch Front, the region’s leaders have laid the groundwork for economic prosperity for years to come. They’ve cultivated a heritage of leadership in the local business community. They’ve engaged thousands of citizens to think about what kind of place they want the Salt Lake City region to be decades down the road — and they’ve supported the vision with their tax dollars.

“We’ve still got more work to be done in investing for our future growth,” said Beattie. “The secret sauce that got us to this point will need a bit of seasoning to ensure we continue to invest prudently in our infrastructure and prosper as a region for years to come.”

See the full article here: bit.ly/1qasUam


Public Policy – August Update

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

As the “Voice of Business” and Utah’s statewide chamber, the Salt Lake Chamber leads out on critical issues that impact Utah businesses and our community. In the coming weeks, here is how we plan to “move the dial” to grow our economy, promote community prosperity and champion business in Utah, as well as ways for you to participate for the month of August and beyond.

*   *   *

Public Policy

We are excited to announce that Michael Merrill has been promoted to Director of Public Policy for the Salt Lake Chamber. Michael will continue to focus and enhance the Chamber’s major initiatives, including economic development, infrastructure, the environment, Utah’s workforce and ensuring Utah’s premier business climate.

Additionally, Jesse Dean has been promoted to Director of Urban Development for the Downtown Alliance, focusing on economic development and urban policies in Salt Lake City’s downtown.

*   *   *

Prosperity 2020

Prosperity 2020 is actively engaged in ensuring that our state has a world-class workforce and supporting education in our state. This includes recently speaking out in favor of extending the No Child Left Behind waiver.

In addition to these efforts, Prosperity 2020is looking to share how businesses are engaged in supporting education. Please take five minutes to complete this short survey to provide insight for the policymakers and others who ask what industry is saying about education’s impact on their companies.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to Allyson Bell at 801-328-5076 or abell@prosperity2020.com.

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Natural Resources Business Council: August meeting focused on public lands initiative

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 | 7:30 – 9:00 AM

The Natural Resource Business Council represents an inclusive approach to multiple sectors of Utah’s economy. The Council is the guiding body for the water,  energy and minerals, clean air, and outdoor recreation and tourism task forces.

This month’s meeting will focus on updates from the Chamber’s efforts in these areas, as well as an update from Rep. Rob Bishop on the Public Lands Initiative.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to Michael Merrill at 801.558.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Regulation: Chamber partnering on Utah Solutions Summit regarding regulation

Thursday, Aug.21, 2014 | 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM

We are partnering with Sen. Mike Lee, Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah League of Cities and Towns, and the Utah Association of Counties for the Utah Solutions Summit on Thursday, August 21, 2014 to discuss the vast and uncertain regulatory burden under which businesses are required to comply and develop solutions to move our economy forward.

The agenda includes discussions with business leaders and government offi­cials about regulation compliance as well as the relationship between regulation and economic development. Included featured keynote speakers: U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox.

If you have any other questions or comments, please reach out to Justin Jones at 801.558.9371 or jjones@slchamber.com.

*   *   *

Clean Air: 6th Annual Clear the Air Challenge another success

We all have a role in keeping our air clean and the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge was another great success exhibiting Utahns and Utah businesses’ willingness to drive smarter and drive less. More than 6,800 participants eliminated over 140,000 single-occupancy vehicles trips, averting more than 2 million miles traveled.

The winners of this year’s challenge will be announced on August 16 at 9:00 a.m. at the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park on the main stage. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to Ryan Evans at 801.328.5063.

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Water: Chamber announces new effort to address Utah’s water challenges

As part of the “Utah | Water Is Your Business” week, the Salt Lake Chamber announced a co-chair for the newly launched water committee: Rob Moore, president of Big-D Construction. The Chamber water committee will focus on best practices for business in water conservation and management, and will also look at current and future infrastructure needs. To learn more, please visit “Utah | Water Is Your Business.” You can also follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #UTbiz4H2O.

We will have updates in the very near future on the committee including meeting dates and ways to participate. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to Michael Merrill at 801.558.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

*   *   *

Utah Transportation Coalition: Mountain transportation and Aerotroplis

Save the Date – Aerotroplis Guest Speaker – Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014

This past month Utah Transportation Coalition and Mountain Accord hosted business and community leaders to discuss the future of transportation in Utah’s Central Wasatch. Mountain transportation is one of the key transportation objectives for Utah’s business community because of its possible impact on our economy, quality of life, and opportunities to strengthen and enhance our natural environment.

The Salt Lake Chamber and Utah Transportation Coalition support these efforts to explore transportation options in the Wasatch Mountains that increase accessibility, are a net-positive for the environment, encourage transit, enhance Utah’s global brand, and pass a rigorous environmental and local process. For more information about the Mountain Accord Process, please visit www.mountainaccord.com.

Addtionally, the Utah Transportation Coalition and Parsons Brinkerhoff will be hosting an Aerotroplis forum on October 16 to discuss the importance of the connection between Salt Lake City International Airport and Utah’s economy. The airport just recently broke ground on a 10-year terminal rebuild and released a report detailing the economic impact of the airport.

For more details, visit www.utahtransportation.org or contact Michael Merrill at 801.558.5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Energy: 2014 Uintah Basin Energy Summit

Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014 – Vernal

Utah’s rich and diverse energy sector is one key reason behind our state’s thriving economy. This September key stakeholders will gather in one of Utah’s richest energy regions. The Uintah Basin Energy Summit is a complement to the Governor’s Energy Summit that focuses directly on economic growth and energy development in the Uintah Basin. The summit will be in held in Vernal, Utah, on September 4, 2014.

This region is extremely important to Utah’s broader business community. Most recently, the Utah State Chamber, the coordinating entity for chambers of commerce throughout Utah, held its annual summer meeting in the Uintah Basin. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to Michael Merrill at 801.558-5068 or mmerrill@slchamber.com.

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Outdoor Recreation and Tourism: 2014 Summer Outdoor Retailer and Economic Club of Utah

Outdoor recreation and tourism represent robust business sectors that benefit both urban and rural Utah. We view efforts to enhance these industries as vital to economic development. This past month we held an industry focus group and will continue to engage Utah’s outdoor products and services companies.

As part of that effort, the Salt Lake Chamber visited the 2014 Summer Outdoor Retailer show and connected with key industry leaders. Additionally, the Chamber is supporting the Economic Club of Utah’s Summer Meeting, which is focusing on Utah’s outdoor economy.

We are also excited about our continued partnership with the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation and Office of Tourism, Global Branding and Film as we look to grow these industries.

*   *   *

Downtown Alliance: Downtown still rising

In July 2014, the Downtown Alliance released the “2014 State of Downtown Economic Benchmark Report” from 2013 through first quarter 2014. This report tells a story of a constantly evolving and improving regional center for culture, commerce and entertainment. Economic activity and tax revenues continue to recover from the Great Recession of 2007-2009, with retail sales reaching over $800 million in eating, drinking, clothing department and other downtown retail categories. Over the last year, dozens of new office buildings, residential developments, hotels, theaters and public structures either broke ground or opened within 1.08 square mile Central Business District. For more information and a full copy of this report, please click here.

Looking forward to 2014-2015, there are several opportunities for improvement within the Central Business District. The Downtown Alliance will focus on policies and programs that impact the following areas:

- Redevelopment in downtown’s burgeoning entrepreneurial and transit-oriented neighborhood, the Depot District.
- Nightlife economy and creating a dynamic and diverse downtown that is welcoming to locals and visitors alike.
- Continued residential development to create a 24/7 urban center welcome to all ages, backgrounds and income levels.
- Development-friendly codes and zoning in order to remain a regional competitor for urban infill.

If you are interested in learning more about the Downtown Alliance’s initiatives or have any questions, please contact Director of Urban Development Jesse Dean at jesse@downtownslc.org.

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Health System Reform: Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan

Health System Reform Task Force meeting – Thursday, Aug.28, 2014

We are actively engaged in a number of issues in regards to health care and the business community. This includes the discussions around the Governor’s Healthy Utah Plan, the continued implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) and its impact on businesses, as well as directly engaging Utah’s employers as the largest payer in health care spending.

The Health System Reform Task Force will be meeting on August 28. If you have any other questions or comments, please reach out to Justin Jones at 801.558.9371 or jjones@slchamber.com.

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International: Utah Global Forum

Utah Global Forum – Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014

On September 24, 2014, Utah will host the first of its kind Global Forum. Topics will include Building a Global Brand; Doing Business in Europe, Mexico, Canada and China; Shared Stories of Success from Utah Companies Abroad; Financing Your Global Expansion; and Global Operational Efficiency Through Sound Legal, Tax and Accounting Practices. The agenda for the event has been released and features a number of world-renowned business and trade experts.

If you’re thinking about exporting, looking to invest in one of the fastest growing economies in the United States or seeking inspiration to take your business to the next level, you won’t want to miss out on this forum.

For questions regarding the Utah Global Forum, please visit www.utahglobalforum.com.


How the 2014 General Session impacted business

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Utah business community commends the Utah legislature for another great year for business. The 2014 General Session wrapped up in March, and the newly released Salt Lake Chamber 2014 Legislative Scorecard highlights how the business community’s policy priorities fared.

“Utah’s economy 
is in a spectacular position because
 of the leadership 
of our Governor, Legislature and
 our great business community working together to bring compromise for important progress for our state,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

The Salt Lake Chamber Vote website monitored the course of 298 bills that had an impact on business through the legislative session. Through that website tool, more than 9,800 emails were sent to state representatives, asking them to act on policy decisions. Eleven of 13 business community priority bills passed, and the average of “yes” votes on priority bills stood at 83 percent. With a 93 percent passage of supported bills, 2014 was an excellent year for Utah’s business community.

Here’s what the Utah’s Legislature helped accomplish this year:


•  Provided $62 million to public education, increasing the weighted pupil unit by 2.5 percent and
another $62 million to fund 10,300 new students
• Invested toward goal of 66 percent of adults with a postsecondary degree or certificate, providing $50 million to equalize funding and increase capacity in our state’s higher education institutions
• Expanded efforts to reach goals of 90 percent proficiency in reading and math among Utah students, allocating more than $7 million for preschool and early intervention programs for at-risk children, and $20 million to STEM education


• Approved a multi-decade effort to support the development of a convention center hotel, benefiting
the entire state
• Authorized $400,000 in business marketing, corporate recruitment and business expansion efforts, as well as $15 million in tourism marketing
• Addressed critical community issues through investing $100,000 to incentivize employers to hire the homeless
• Tackled issues of panhandling and solicitation around Utah’s highways and sidewalks that negatively impact the ability to conduct business in a safe manner
• Partnered to fund $400,000 for the Your Utah, Your Future quality growth initiative


• Funded a $500,000 air quality education campaign
• Provided $1 million in scientific research to help better understand the causes of air pollution
• Established a $200,000 fund to help small businesses reduce air emissions through new technologies and programs
• Created a $250,000 fund to incentivize the conversion of sole-source wood burning homes to cleaner energy heating
• Addressed mobile emissions through enabling enhanced infrastructure for electric vehicles,
providing tax credits to purchase alternative fuel vehicles and mandating 50 percent of the State’s vehicle fleet to be highly efficient vehicles by 2015


• Jump-started a robust conversation to address both the $11.3 billion funding gap outlined in the 2040 Unified Transportation Plan and the significant need for increased education funding
• Moved toward improving Utah’s air quality and set the stage for further discussions on issues such as Tier 3 fuels and improving statewide transit systems

The 2014 Legislative Scorecard also has a bill-by-bill tally of priority bills and their impacts on Utah business. To see the PDF of the 2014 Legislative Scorecard, click here


The 2014 Public Policy Guide and business priorities released

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Salt Lake Chamber released the business community’s priorities for the upcoming General Legislative Session within the 2014 Public Policy Guide. The Public Policy Guide was presented to the speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser Wednesday morning. The guide outlines the Chamber’s position on policy issues including economic development, education, transportation, water, energy and minerals, clean air, outdoor recreation and tourism, Downtown Rising, immigration, international competitiveness, and small business.

“The 2014 Public Policy Guide is a Chamber publication, but it represents the broad-based support of chambers of commerce across the state as well as other important business associations,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “These are the priorities of Utah’s diverse business sectors from across the state and it’s critical that we speak with one voice.”

View and download the 2014 Public Policy Guide PDF here.

Economic Development 
Economic development and job creation is the cornerstone priority for Utah’s business community. The 2014 Public Policy Guide highlights and supports the “Your Utah, Your Future” quality growth strategy, initiated by Gov. Gary Herbert and Envision Utah, in taking the long-term view on public policy issues. The guide also outlines priorities that will facilitate economic growth and strengthen the economy, including a continued stance against general tax increases not supported by the public, a commitment to eliminating harmful regulation and a collaborative challenge to enhance Utah’s competitiveness through attracting regional corporate headquarters to the state.

“Utah’s economy is extremely well-positioned for continued growth in 2014. The private-sector is set to accomplish the significant goal of creating 150,000 jobs since the recession–more than a year ahead of schedule,” said Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber and associate dean of the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. “However, Utah’s economy faces economic headwinds from our nation’s capital and risks economic hardship if we do not address our education system and transportation infrastructure.”

Prosperity 2020
An educated workforce has a direct correlation with economic prosperity and is a top priority for Utah’s business community. To be globally competitive, Utah must return to a top-10 state in overall education rankings. To meet this challenge, the Chamber outlines key priorities to improve: 4th grade reading scores; 8th grade math scores; high school completion and college and career readiness; innovative teaching in public education; and Utah’s ability to reach 66 percent of Utahns with postsecondary degrees or certificates.

“Investing in our children is the best investment we can make as a community,” said Alan Hall, Chair ofProsperity 2020, founder and co-managing director of Mercato Partners, and chairman of Marketstar. “Facing unprecedented growth, we need to ensure that the largest population of young people in the country will be deployed as the best educated workforce, propelling Utah to enduring prosperity.”

Prosperity 2020 and the business community, through school-business partnerships, can improve school environments and boost outcomes for students. In addition to advocacy, the Utah business community has developed partnerships that support our education system and improve outcomes. The guide highlights how businesses across the state are becoming directly involved in the educational success of Utah’s children through a myriad of partnerships, including tutoring students, volunteering in classrooms, sponsoring activities, advising programs of study, providing internships and funding scholarships.

“Utah’s business leaders understand the urgency of addressing our education challenges,” said Beattie. “As a strong backer of the Prosperity 2020 movement, we are very supportive of the priorities and commitment of the Legislature’s Education Taskforce and will work to make these policies a reality.”

Recent completions of major transportation initiatives have made Utah a national example in our commitment to disciplined planning and investment in transportation infrastructure. As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, continued investments are critical to economic growth and accommodating future generations of Utahns.

“Our community continues to rapidly grow,” said H. David Burton, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition.  “We must act now to ensure future generations can enjoy economic prosperity and a high quality of life.”

The guide outlines support for a five-year action plan to fully fund Utah’s prioritized transportation needs identified in Utah’s 2040 Unified Transportation Plan. This action plan includes allowing local governments to address their urgent transportation challenges, investments to improve our transit system, and a call for the expansion and inflation-adjustment of user fees to meet critical needs.

“Investments in transportation infrastructure benefit every aspect of our economy,” said David Golden, co-chair of the Utah Transportation Coalition, and executive vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Group’s Mountain Division. “The need for investment is critical and requires immediate action in order to sustain and enhance our world-class business and economic climate.”

Natural Resource Business Council
Utah’s spectacular natural environment is a legacy passed to us from preceding generations and is a key component of the state’s economy and high quality of life. The guide is the debut of the Chamber’s Natural Resource Business Council, which represents a comprehensive approach to the state’s natural environment and important sectors of Utah’s economy. The Chamber’s clean air and energy and minerals task forces, as well as two new Chamber initiatives in Water and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, are organized under the Council.

“Utah’s natural resources provide Utah families with unparalleled life quality and economic opportunities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “We owe future generations our best stewardship efforts to ensure they enjoy the same advantages we now enjoy.”

The Natural Resource Business Council priorities include developing a long-term vision on Utah’s water needs, enhancing rural economic development, improving transportation options to Utah’s energy rich Uinta Basin, supporting Utah’s tourism marketing and addressing air quality issues.

Specifically, the guide highlights the Chamber’s support for: the PM2.5 State Implementation Plan, increased transportation funding to improve our transit system and reduce idling on Utah’s roadways, cleaner vehicles, increased efforts for public awareness and research, and incentives to facilitate small businesses’ participation in emission reductions.

“Air quality for many Utahns’ is the state’s most pressing issue,” said Beattie. “Clean air makes good business sense and the Utah business community is committed to being a champion for improving our air quality.”

The 2014 Public Policy guide is available online at www.slchamber.com/PPG2014.

Here are some photos from the event where we presented speaker of the House of Representatives Rebecca Lockhart and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser:

Approaching a New Year with the Same Challenges

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Editor’s note: This post was authored by Darin Mellott, sr. analyst at CBRE.

Approaching the end of the fourth quarter, many begin to look forward to a new year and wonder what it will bring. Unfortunately, for the last several years, the United States has struggled with many of the same issues year after year. Issues such as international competitiveness, putting people back to work and addressing the federal budget are often talked about during elections, but policymakers have not adequately addressed these challenges. Consequently, many of the same issues continue to cause problems over and over again. This is the reality that businesses and households alike are dealing with and it is restraining growth. As a commercial real estate analyst, it’s clear that the negative impact on the broader economy is weighing on local markets as well.

Just last month, the inability of policymakers to employ any kind of strategy or long-term budgeting lead to a 16 day partial shutdown of the federal government. Even more threatening to the nation’s economic health, the possibility of a U.S. default was raised. The purpose of this column is not to rehash what happened last month or remind people that national policymakers have been less than ideal stewards, or even leaders for that matter. However, it should be noted that their inability to perform their jobs well (collectively speaking) is having an impact on the national and local economies.

Concerns of Senior Executives
It is clear that by September, executives began to anticipate an ugly budget fight. In September, McKinsey & Co. released their “Economic Conditions Snapshot.” In the report, North American executives considered domestic political conflict as the second greatest threat to growth, behind geopolitical conflict. This was during a time when it was unclear whether or not the U.S. would undertake military action in the Syrian conflict.

The concerns of senior executives were also captured in the Business Roundtable’s Q3, 2013 CEO Survey. In that survey CEO’s indicated they were growing more pessimistic about growth during the coming six months. Anticipating a less optimistic picture, fewer chief executives expected a pick-up in demand for their products and indicated less willingness to increase capital expenditures during the coming months. All of this was before the government shutdown. Just the prospect of such an occurrence was enough to impact sentiment among business leaders!

Outside of the boardroom, consumers were also growing more pessimistic. According to the University of Michigan’s survey of consumer confidence, sentiment began deteriorating in August and reached its lowest point in two years by November.

Local Impact
On a local level, we are not immune to the effects of trouble on the national level. From where I sit, broader market indicators continue to improve. However, the rate of improvement for one key commercial real estate indicator began slowing in the local office market after the first quarter and continued to slow through the third quarter. That indicator (net absorption) measures space leased vs. space vacated and is a good measure of growth.  While some of the sluggishness can be explained by examining structural changes (particularly in office markets), this does not account for all of the softening.

Similarly, growth in the local industrial market, while consistent and steady has not been accelerating. This tells me that the cautious executive sentiment reflected in the two surveys previously mentioned is also shared by local business leaders.

Unnecessary Headwinds
How much of an impact shenanigans in Washington have on the broader economy is frequently examined and debated. Even still, it is safe to say that things could be a lot better if policymakers in Washington were more effective.

Unfortunately, the resolution to the most recent drama was short-term. By December 13, a budget conference committee is expected to agree to a path moving forward. By January 15, a continuing resolution which allowed the federal government to reopen will expire. Last, but certainly not least consequential, the debt ceiling will need to be addressed by February 7.

The anticipation of coming budget fights will create unnecessary headwinds going into an important time of year for the economy. Unfortunately the last resolution followed a similar pattern of deferring big decisions and then revisiting them soon after. We should all hope that coming budget talks yield results that will allow for an extended period of calm from Washington. If they are able to deliver in that respect, then 2014 could have some good upside potential.

Building Utah’s broadband network

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Earlier this year, Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” became a worldwide brand when Internet giant Google announced Google Fiber in Provo. Google is known throughout the world for its Internet search engine, business applications and many other products. However, the company’s decision to invest millions of dollars in Provo’s existing broadband network boiled down to one point: broadband and high-speed Internet are critical to the global competitiveness of any economy.

“From rivers and ports, to our modern freeway system or electricity, businesses have relied on a variety of infrastructures over time to stay competitive,” said Lane Beattie, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber. “Broadband is today’s infrastructure to support globally competitive businesses.”

Before Google’s investment, companies such as CenturyLink, Comcast, Xmission and other providers in the state have pushed Utah into the upper-echelon of both access and speed for broadband.

“Utah has an extensive broadband network that, in addition to low energy prices and an educated workforce, is helping to attract businesses to the state,” said Kelleigh Cole, manager of the Utah Broadband Project. “The Utah Broadband Project works with communities, providers and users to leverage what is already the fastest Internet in the West to further grow Utah’s economy.”

This focus has led to an elaborate mapping effort by the Utah Broadband Project to act as clearinghouse for identifying challenges to further development of the state’s broadband infrastructure. The Utah Broadband Project is also developing a statewide broadband plan that will ensure Utah remains on the cutting edge of this vital technology infrastructure.

“Along the Wasatch Front, businesses have a variety of choices for their broadband services,” said Cole. “What most people don’t realize is that in Utah, many rural communities are highly connected, allowing businesses in all parts of the state the ability to compete in a global market place.”

As the Utah Broadband Project works to strengthen Utah’s economy and ensure businesses stay globally competitive, the project is planning the 2013 Utah Broadband Summit on October 24th in Provo. The Summit will feature workshops to help community planners, economic developers, government officials, business leaders, educators, and other stakeholders learn strategies to improve broadband access and technology usage.

For more information about the summit and to register visit: http://broadband.utah.gov/about/events/2013summit/

Transportation investment could add 183,000 jobs to Utah’s economy

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Editor’s note: This article was written by Gaylen Webb for EDCUtah and appeared in the Utah Pulse on Oct. 8, 2013. 

A recent study by the Economic Development Research Group of Boston shows Utah could nearly double its return of investment on the state’s transportation infrastructure by 2040. Simply put: for every dollar spent on transportation infrastructure, the state could turn around an ROI of $1.94.

“Anytime you can trade someone $1 for $1.94, you make that trade,” says Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Lane Beattie.

According to the study, which can be read here, if state and local governments and transportation agencies fully implement Utah’s Unified Transportation Plan 2011-2040, the result will be a dramatic and positive economic impact over the next three decades. In fact, if the Unified Transportation plan is fully funded, the state would see a return on investment of nearly 183,000 new jobs created in Utah by 2040. Those would include 55,000 construction jobs and more than 91,000 other jobs created by improvements in transportation performance. Another 17,000 jobs would be created by enhanced access to markets for Utah firms, and more than 19,000 jobs would be added by new businesses attracted to Utah because of improved transportation conditions.

“If you look at the sheer numbers, the outcome is pretty impressive,” says Marty Carpenter, executive vice president of communication at the Salt Lake Chamber. The study projects the state would experience:

  • $130.5 billion in additional household income
  • $183.6 billion in additional gross domestic product
  • $22 billion in additional tax revenues from economic growth

As Beattie points out, Utah would receive an estimated return on investment of $1.94 in non-construction GDP gain per $1 invested in transportation infrastructure. That is based on the analysis of private sector transportation costs that can be saved if the Unified Transportation Plan is implemented as envisioned. The comprehensive plan, which can be read here, has four strategic goals: preserve infrastructure, optimize mobility, improve safety and strengthen the economy.

“The Utah Unified Transportation Plan is really quite detailed,” says Carpenter. “It covers everything from smaller roads, bike paths and big rail projects–all of the things we should look at doing in order to have the transportation infrastructure that will support the population growth we can expect.”

The Economic Development Research Group’s study was commissioned by the Utah Transportation Coalition, a group started by the Salt Lake Chamber in 2012 to bring transportation stakeholders together with businesses that recognize the impact transportation infrastructure will have on their long-term ability to succeed. Carpenter says the coalition is working with elected officials, stakeholders and other businesses to help them understand there is a gap between the funds the state has committed for transportation infrastructure, recognize what is needed to fully fund the Unified Transportation Plan and to help them find ways to close the gap.

Utah currently has about $43 billion committed toward transportation infrastructure between now and 2040, when the Unified Transportation Plan would be finished. But, he says, a total of $54.7 billion is needed to create a transportation system that will allow Utah’s economy to reach its full potential.

“Our current funding leaves us a shortfall of $11.3 billion–the gap between what we need to have to maximize our return on investment and what we actually have planned,” he explains. “Based upon the study, if we can come up with that additional $11.3 billion, we get an extra 182,000-plus jobs created by 2040. Seventy percent of those jobs are attributable to improved transportation performance, while 30 percent are from construction spending.”

This isn’t the first time the Salt Lake Chamber has taken an active role in pushing for funds to improve Utah’s transportation infrastructure. The Chamber played a critical role in the passage of Proposition 3 in 2006, which accelerated the construction of the Mountain View Corridor and helped fund five TRAX light rail projects in Salt Lake County and the FrontRunner commuter rail project from the Intermodal Hub in Salt Lake into Utah County.

“As a business association, we recognize that the long-term economic strength of our state depends on our ability to maintain and continue to build a strong transportation infrastructure, particularly because we know our population is going to double in the next 30 years,” says Carpenter. “With that knowledge comes the responsibility to speak today about what the congestion could look like and what we can do about it. We must work today to make sure gridlock doesn’t happen.”

Utah is currently in a great position, he adds, because the state has invested well over the past decade and is ahead of the curve on transportation. Over the past 10 years strong partnerships have been forged, along with a strong understanding of the importance of transportation infrastructure. Nonetheless, without adequately funding the Unified Transportation Plan, Utahns can expect increased transportation stress and continued air quality problems as the population grows to an anticipated 3 million people along the Wasatch Front over the next three decades.

While adding more roads is only part of the transportation plan, Carpenter says it would be non sequitur for some people to connect additional roads with improved air quality. “You are going to have people in cars regardless,” he says. “Giving them more transportation options is essential, but so is keeping them from sitting in congestion. Cars sitting on over-crowded roads are still burning fuel and putting emissions in the air. If we keep cars and trucks moving as efficiently as possible, it saves commuters and businesses money and reduces the amount of emissions they put in the air.”

Carpenter says federal funding is declining as they work toward the $11.3 billion shortfall in transportation investment, but the study lays out a variety of alternative concepts. The Transportation Coalition, he notes, hasn’t settled on one particular mechanism. “We are more interested in showing the Legislature a number of options they have and to give our best counsel as to what those options will entail,” he says. “Ultimately, I am sure as that field of options narrows we’ll take a position, but at this point that is preliminary. It is more important to help lawmakers understand the issues we face, see what their options are, and present them with good information about the path forward.”